Holly Watkins: Space and Place in 'Parsifal'

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Holly Watkins: Space and Place in 'Parsifal'

Post by alberich00 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 2:31 pm

Paul Heise's review of "Space and Place in 'Parsifal'," a talk presented by Holly Watkins (Eastman School of Music) at the Wagner Worldwide 2013 bicentennial symposium sponsored by the Univ. of South Carolina in the winter of 2013:

Wagner said of Liszt's "Dante Symphony" that it transcended its time and place. The arts have transcendent significance, according to Wagner.

Reality vs. Ideality.

We recall Gurnemanz's remark to Parsifal in "Parsifal" Act One, during the transition scene from the Grail Lake to the Hall of the Grail, that "Time here becomes space," [PH: In response to Parsifal's remark that he scarcely treads yet seems to have come far; this is Wagner's cryptic reduction of his concept of the Wonder, through which his musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence can make distant space and the past and future within his artworks always here and now, a concept related of course to Schopenhauer's version of Kant's concept of the ideality of space and time].

In Wagner's essays on Bayreuth he described it as the real place where an ideal content is revealed. There is also the matter of Bayreuth's remote location [PH: the idea being to sever his audience from their normal parameters, so they would be receptive to the dreamlike art they would experience in the Festpielhaus]

Watkins spoke of Wagner's ambivalent modernity. The Festpielhaus featured the high technology of the time, and became a tourist destination. One could travel there by rail.

"Parsifal" was premiered at a time of concern for the environment due to industrialization and exploitation of natural resources.


Question: Re Husserl's phenomenology, Wagner references Kant on the ideality of space and time in an essay.

Answer: All kinds of philosophic ideas pile up in Wagner's writings.

Question: Is there a link between Klingsor's chromaticism and white and black magic? In other words, does chromatic harmony represent black magic, and diatonic harmony white magic? PH: I'm not sure whether the last sentence was Watkin's answer or part of the original question.

Question: Thomas Grey: Gurnemanz critiques Parsifal for wearing armor in the Grail realm. Gurnamanz says that no man comes armed here, to this hallowed ground [PH: especially on Good Friday].

PH: I failed to record precisely who was asking and answering during the following, so I'll simply reproduce what I recorded in my notebook and sort this out later:

Transformations of the Grail: there is a magical transformation of the Grail theme in Act II. There is a spooky hexatonic feature to this music, according to Richard Cohn's research. We hear hexatonic poles, which are uncanny when juxtaposed. Lewin reads these harmonic tricks: Parsifal brings the spear and its magic back to the Grail realm. The same harmonic tools are employed for both Klingsor and the Grail. [PH: I need to listen to this portion again as it seems to me somewhat confused]. Klingsor is linked more with the real than with the ideal. Place is the key. Wagner tries to obliterate the boundaries, the borders between worlds.

PH: The last discussion during the Q&A seems to me to be potentially most interesting, though as someone with no ability to read music, and therefore limited knowledge of the terminology being employed, and obviously no direct knowledge of the score except through listening, I can't comment. However, I have long felt that something quite strange and wonderful seems to happen during "Parsifal" Act III, and I don't know whether or not this is a purely subjective impression with no objective basis, or real. What I have long felt is that somehow or other a fusion of the chromatic music of Act II, and the diatonic Grail-inspired music of Act I, somehow merge and become one gradually throughout Act III. I've long felt this but can contribute nothing by way of concrete knowledge to back up my response. However, I suspect that the discussion above about the transformations of the Grail and Wagner's obliteration of boundaries has something to do with this. Any comment?

Wagner felt that urban centers were corrupt, and rural towns upright.

The musico-dramatic geography in "Parsifal": Klinsgor's Magic Castle/Garden vs. the Gralsberg, or Islam vs Christianity. Monsalvat is diatonic, Klingsor's Castle and Garden chromatic. But this dichotomy is not consistently maintained.
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